Jeff Wolpers Wins ‘Patriotic Employer’ Award

It’s humbling to think that someone you work with would take the time to nominate you for an award.

HARLINGEN, TX — Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), A U.S. Department of Defense program, awarded BCFS Health and Human Services-Harlingen’s Community Services Director, Jeff Wolpers, the ESGR’s Patriotic Employer Award as an ally for his focus on hiring veterans and active reservists.

BCFS-Harlingen’s Parent Educator, Rocio Medina, in the Project HOPES (Health Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support) parenting education program and a U.S. Army Reservist nominated Jeff, who accepted the ESGR’s Statement of Support Certificate from Jesus A. Rodriguez, the ESGR’s Area 3-Texas Chairman.

It’s humbling to think that someone you work with would take the time to nominate you for an award,” Jeff says, adding that he shares the award with his team.

The BCFS System, as an overall agency, is very supportive of our armed forces,” he says, mentioning that Rocio’s Parent Educator position is ready for her after a yearlong U.S. Army Reserves deployment in Egypt that began in January.

“Regina (Woolridge, BCFS System Human Resources Director) and Elizabeth (Engelke, BCFS System Benefits Specialist) were very helpful in walking me through the steps needed to preserve Rocio’s job for when she returns.”

Jeff has worked at BCFS-Harlingen since 2014, overseeing Project HOPES and the Fatherhood EFFECT program, another parent education program focused on fathers and building strong families in the Harlingen community. Jeff was also recently spotted at a monthly reading event for the community, where Jeff led story time and he and the Project HOPES team took part in some superhero costume craft making. For photos, click here, and for photos of Jeff’s ESGR award ceremony, click here.

The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) was established in 1972 by the Department of Defense to promote cooperation between U.S. military reserve members and their civilian employers to help resolve conflicts that arise from an employee’s military commitment.

Visit DiscoverBCFS.net/Harlingen for details about BCFS-Harlingen’s work in south Texas.

Congratulations, Jeff, and thank you for your commitment to community.

BCFS Spotlights: Valerie for Community Involvement

HARLINGEN, TX — BCFS Health and Human Services-Harlingen Clinician Valerie Nelson has been presented with the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley’s (UTRGV) Dr. Emmette R. Hutto Outstanding Alumnus Award for her work in the community. Valerie is a recent UTRGV graduate who joined the BCFS Health and Human Services mission of service to others. Through BCFS-Harlingen’s Project HOPES parenting education program, she is building her community through her own education and experiences.

Project HOPES serves families who live in Cameron County who have children between the ages of 0-5. This year, HOPES has served 175 families through the SafeCare Curriculum, an evidence-based parent-training regimen and how-to guide focused on a child’s health and safety that is taught in the home. Since joining BCFS in 2016, Valerie has internalized the project.

Photo: Valerie Nelson

SafeCare is comprised of three separate modules — Parent-Child/Infant Interaction, Health, and Safety — that are each six sessions long. The goal (of HOPES) is to improve interaction between the parent and the child,” she says, “and to give information on ways to facilitate the bond between caregiver and child.

She continues, mentioning HOPES’ ancillary services like basic needs support, family assistance, and counseling that make the program more accessible in the community.

“Also, monthly, we do literacy events that incorporate face painting, and arts and crafts for the kids, and parents have the opportunity to pick up small but practical giveaways, like outlet covers and cabinet locks to make their home safer for their children.”

In addition to managing a six-member team of HOPES Parent Educators and Family Support Coordinators, and being designated a SafeCare coach who ensures fidelity to the curriculum, Valerie is one of two of HOPES’s Licensed Professional Counselors that provide family counseling when a family requests. “Our families face a number of stressors,” she says, “so it’s important that HOPES families have access to counseling professionals in the convenience and comfort of their homes.”

Paving the Way for Future Students

Valerie’s alma mater is the result of the University of Texas System’s decision to combine its UT-Brownsville, UT-Pan American and the UT Regional Academic Health Center-Harlingen campuses. During the retool, UTRGV’s counseling program would need to reapply for accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Valerie helped the program succeed.

Part of the accreditation process includes information from the professors and the university, but a major component is the implementation of the program,” she explains. “I was interviewed as an alumnus and internship site supervisor. From those interviews with me and others, the CACREP panel was able to grant the accreditation to the program.

Even after earning her Master’s in counseling, Valerie stays engaged with her professors, crossing paths in a regional association of counseling professionals of which she is the treasurer. Her professors nominated her for the Hutto Award.

“Every two years, the association hosts a two-and-a-half day conference for professionals. They (professors) said they took note of the role I played in leading and organizing this year’s conference,” she says humbly. “I was completely surprised,” she adds about learning of her award. That Valerie has chosen a career path in the direct service of others grows from the example she has seen since she was young girl.
“My mother served in a political position for thirty years and my father was a paramedic,” she says. “At a young age, I was out in the community volunteering with local school organizations, church groups, and the Girl Scouts.“In college, I found counseling as a calling,” she says. “Helping individuals discover their own strengths and using those skills to improve the circumstances for themselves and their families…is indescribable.”

Congratulations, Valerie!

Visit HOPES for more information.

Celeste Garcia Named Executive Director – Community Services Division

Photo: Celeste Garcia

BCFS Health and Human Services has named Celeste Garcia as Executive Director of its Community Services Division. In this role, Garcia will oversee BCFS’ community-based operations, which offer services in every Texas county ranging from case management and counseling, to life skills trainings, parenting classes, college and vocational tuition vouchers for youth in foster care, shelter for young adults struggling with homelessness, and more. Garcia will assume this role on November 1.

Garcia currently serves as Associate Executive Director of BCFS’ Residential Services Division where she oversees foster care, adoption, post release and home study programs, with annual budgets totaling $16.5 million. Garcia also serves as a key liaison between BCFS and its government partners at the federal, state and local level, ensuring compliance, quality assurance, and positive program outcomes for the children, youth and families served.

Under Garcia’s leadership, BCFS’ regional offices across the country continually receive high rankings from federal partners and third party advocacy groups that laud the organization for consistently delivering critical services for children and families in need with exceptional speed, scalability, and quality.

“Celeste is a dynamic leader who invigorates her team and delivers top notch programming,” said Asennet Segura, BCFS Chief Operating Officer. “I know she will not only strengthen our current programs, but also be key in leveraging BCFS locations in other states across the nation to expand our agency’s reach to more children and families in need.”

When she served as National Program Director of BCFS’ Post Release and Home Study Services, Garcia spearheaded the opening of regional offices strategically located around the nation to serve children and families reunited after a separation that sometimes spanned years. Garcia has worked closely with the U.S. departments of Justice, Homeland Security and key international diplomats to ensure BCFS’ operations filled gaps for unmet needs, and exceeded contract requirements.

“Throughout her tenure at BCFS, Celeste has maintained a laser focus on a singular, critical mission: ensuring the best quality placements and environments for children and youth in our care,” said Kevin Dinnin, BCFS President.

Garcia has 14 years of experience advocating for children and families. She earned her Masters of Science in Social Administration at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

BCFS Health and Human Services’ Community Services Division operates centers across Texas that serve youth from the foster care system, teens struggling with homelessness, poverty or a history of abuse, youth in the juvenile justice system, and families. At BCFS centers, youth receive case management, counseling, and assistance with education, employment and housing. Parent support groups and parenting education programs educate families on how to improve communication, resolve conflict, and create a stable, safe home environment for their families.

BCFS Names Wolpers to Lead New Parenting and Child Abuse Prevention Programs

BCFS has named Jeff Wolpers as Director of Community Based Services over its family-centric parenting education programs in Harlingen, called Healthy Outcomes Through Prevention & Early Support (HOPES) and Fatherhood EFFECT. In his new role, Wolpers will oversee the administration of these programs aimed at reducing child abuse and building strong families in the Harlingen community.

HARLINGEN – BCFS Health and Human Services has named Jeff Wolpers as Director of Community Based Services over its family-centric parenting education programs in Harlingen, called Healthy Outcomes Through Prevention & Early Support (HOPES) and Fatherhood EFFECT (Educating Fathers for Empowering Children Tomorrow). In his new role, Wolpers will oversee the administration of these programs aimed at reducing child abuse and building strong families in the Harlingen community.
“HOPES and Fatherhood EFFECT provide families with education and parenting techniques that can turn a chaotic household into a loving and peaceful one – all while helping meet the families’ most basic needs, like food and clothing, to alleviate some of the environmental stressors that can lead to child abuse or neglect,” said Ben Delgado, BCFS Executive Vice President – Community and International Operations. “Jeff’s experience in community-building and one-on-one work with families will be invaluable in the programs’ outreach.”
HOPES is a community-based child abuse and neglect prevention program for families with children younger than 5 years old. It provides parenting education, case management, crisis intervention, counseling and parent support groups.
The Fatherhood EFFECT  program is a parenting education course for households where a father figure is the primary caregiver for a child or children under 17 years old. The curriculum teaches families how to resolve conflict, improve communication, and overcome issues of aggression, alcohol and violence.
Both programs are offered in English and Spanish, and help participating families meet their basic needs like food, diapers, clothing, transportation and even childcare assistance. HOPES and Fatherhood EFFECT are funded by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Before joining BCFS, Wolpers served as a supervisor for the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services. He has more than 20 years of experience in the operation and management of human service programs, including client advocacy, counseling and case management.
To request family support services or learn more about HOPES and Fatherhood EFFECT, call (956) 230-3849.